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Castro Valley book offers idyllic look at city's history
By Karen Holzmeister   - 10/26/2005

The Oakland Tribune

More Info on This Book: Castro Valley

Celebrity isn't limited to Hollywood, and Castro Valley best known for chicken ranches, rodeos and occasional flare-ups over growth has its own claims to fame.
Jerry Unser, Castro Valley's first fire chief, was the father of race car drivers Bobby and Al Unser. Actor-producer Clint Eastwood's uncle once lived in Eden Canyon.

And for years a dog breeder on Castro Valley Boulevard displayed a framed certificate from movie studio MGM stating the original "Lassie" collie a male named "Pal," although the canine character always was female came from his kennel.

Some of these facts and lots more are included in "Images of America: Castro Valley," an evocative and folksy book of pictures, maps and interviews.

The cover photo, showing cowgirls in tall grass surrounded by saddled horses, sets the stage for an idyllic trip through the 19th and 20th centuries as Castro Valley grew from an agricultural Eden to today's bustling community of homes and businesses.

Local historian Lucille Lorge, whose great-grandfather opened the farming community's first business in 1881, a saloon on the site where Trader Joe's now operates, said it is the first book on Castro Valley history.

While the $19.99 book may introduce the community of

58,000 to a wider audience, Lorge said it has more importance close to home.

"A lot of people in Castro Valley, who've moved here in recent years, have no clue about our history," she said.

Lorge, 75, is one of the authors, along with fellow valley resident Devon Weston, 23, and California State University, East Bay professor Robert Phelps.

Phelps wrote a similar book about Hayward's history and enlisted Weston, one of his students, to help with the Castro Valley project. Weston, whose family came to Castro Valley in the post-World War II building boom, sought help from Lorge. Weston recalled, as an elementary school student, watching one of Lorge's history-themed slide shows.

Last fall, they signed a contract with Arcadia Publishing of South Carolina, which also published the Hayward book. Then they began dozens of interviews and searching for pictures.

The book is filled with portraits of early-day settlers such as Strobridge, Stanton and Jensen, whose names are familiar because local streets were named in their honor. There are pictures of some of the 12 chicken hatcheries and hundreds of chicken ranches and fruit orchards that dotted flatlands and hillsides.

Pictures include fancy restaurants and resorts in the early 1900s, a minister whose "Daily Hour of Prayer" was broadcast from his Castro Valley ranch, and Castro Valley's first "library" a 1918 book drop in a former chicken coop.

The book generally appears to be error free, although Guillermo Castro, after whom the community is named, has an inaccurately listed birth date of 1910, about a century too late.

Lorge's family has been inextricably linked to chickens

during the past 125 years. Henry Thomford, her great-grandfather, sometimes would let weary travelers enjoy something extra with their beer, cheese, sausage and pickles a peek at his three-headed chicken, preserved in a jar of alcohol.

And in the 1950s, as hatchery businesses began folding, Lorge and her family came up with one idea to get them through another season.

Using warm water and vegetable dye, they colored thousands of male chicks pink and purple and yellow just in time for Easter. Sales were great, she said, until the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stopped the practice.

"I'm a little embarrassed about it now," she recalled in an interview earlier this week. But coloring was preferable to the alternative, which at the time was drowning the male chicks which couldn't be raised for food in barrels of water.


Copies of "Castro Valley" are available at area bookstores, through Arcadia Publishing at http://www.arcadiapublishing.com or via the Hayward Area Historical Society, 22701 Main St., in Hayward, where the authors will sign books from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday.


Buy It Now: Castro Valley $21.99




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